Texas Cooperative Extension,
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

September 2006

Love Bugs (Plecia nearctica)

by Will G. Hudson, Extension Entomologistist,
The University of Georgia

Lovebugs (courtesy of Dr. Bart Drees, Texas Cooperative Extension)

Lovebugs are small black flies with red thoraxes. They are members of the family Bibionidae. Several species of this family are native to the United States, but lovebugs, Plecia nearctica, are relatively recent invaders.

Originally from South America, in the past 50 years lovebugs have increased their range and now infest parts of all states bordering the Gulf of Mexico, Georgia and South Carolina.

Two flights of lovebugs occur each year. The first flight occurs after rainfall in the spring and the second is timed to coincide with fall rains. Flights extend over a period of 4 to 5 weeks but individual adults live only 2-3 days. Mating takes place almost immediately after emergence.

Female lovebugs lay from 100 to 350 eggs. Larvae (immature stages) feed on decaying plant material, particularly in damp areas. They perform a beneficial function by helping recycle organic matter. After larvae mature, they pupate at the soil surface.

Lovebugs do not sting or bite. They feed on the nectar of various flowers. Adult flights are restricted to daylight hours (generally beginning around 10 AM) and temperatures above 68F. The adults tend to congregate in open, sunny areas and are attracted to some components of automobile exhaust. At night, lovebugs rest on low-growing vegetation.

Lovebugs are a considerable nuisance to motorists. They congregate aong highways and splatter on the windshields and grills of trucks and automobiles. Vision can be obscured, and the bugs can clog radiator fins causing vehicles to overheat. A screen placed in front of the grill will keep the radiator fins from clogging, and will protect the front of the car. Slattered bugs should be washed off as soon as possible. Soaking for several minutes with water makes the mess easier to remove. When the remains are left on a car for several days, the finish may be permanently damaged.

A number of insecticides have been evaluated for effectivenss in controlling lovebug larvae and adults. Most of the insecticides were effective in controlling the adults, and several controlled the immature stages. However, insecticidal control of the lovebug is impractical because infestations occur over such a vast area and adults are so mobile that retreatment would be required every few hours to keep a roadway clear. Most commonly available household insecticides will control adults in confined areas such as entryways and porches. Your county Extension Agent can help with the choice of materials for this purpose.

Lovebugs are not without enemies in nature. Larvae are found in extremely high numbers in pastures and other grassy areas, and make attractive prey for certain bird predators including robins and quail. Laboratory studies using invertebrate predators found in lovebug-infested pastures indicated they were voracious predators also. These included earwigs, beetle largae and a centipede.

Lovebug populations may vary considerably from year to year, and some years are much worse than others. The reasons for these fluctuations are not known.

Earth Kind uses research-proven techniques to provide maximum gardening and landscape performance while preserving and protecting the environment. For more information on Earth Kind Landscape Management Practices see our web site: http://earthkind.tamu.edu